Admirals Stat-urday: Norfolk Stays "Positive" Through December

Harry How

The Admirals have won six games out of 10 and have points in seven. Yes Virginia, there is winning hockey in Norfolk!

1 - Friday night marked the first game of the season that Norfolk had been held to less than 20 shots on goal. The Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) kept the Admirals to just 18 shots.

2 - Two players, Luca Caputi and Ryan Lasch, were recalled from the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets. Lasch was named the Sher-Wood Hockey ECHL Player of the Week for the week ending December 16th, posting four goals and nine points in four games. Caputi joined the Komets on November 27th netting five goals and 10 points in ten games with Fort Wayne.

3 - After a dismal November, Norfolk has only three regulation losses in December; their third coming Friday night at the hands of the Crunch.

4 - Rookie defenseman Sami Vatanen scored his fourth goal of the season Friday night in Syracuse. Vatanen has 18 points on the season (4G, 18A).

5 - Both Frederik Andersen and Igor Bobkov have stood between the pipes in five games this December. Andersen went 3-1-1 with a .943 save percentage and 1.80 goals against average. While Bobkov, starting the last five games, has a 3-2 record with a .925 SV% and 2.40 GAA.

6 - It took only six seconds of overtime play for Admirals forward Emerson Etem to score his second goal of the game, the winning goal, against the Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils) last Saturday. Etem's goal is now the fastest to start any period in AHL Admirals history.

7 - Norfolk has collected points in seven of 10 games played in December, going 6-3-1-0 and ammassing 13 of a possible 20 points. The Admirals were able to pull to .500 just before the Christmas break but fell to one game under after losing to Syracuse Friday.

8 - Patrick Maroon notched his eighth assist of the season by setting up Sami Vatanen's third period goal against Syracuse. Maroon has 19 points this season (11G, 8A) and has points in three straight games (1G, 2A).

9 - The Admirals are a hard team to beat when leading. They are 7-1-0-0 when leading after one period and undefeated when leading after two periods this season with a 9-0-0-0 record.

10 - Admirals forward Kyle Palmieri netted his tenth goal of the season against Syracuse, bringing his point total to 20 (10G, 10A).

-- Still going strong. The Admirals have continued their winning ways in December, sweeping the weekend series against the Albany Devils and reaching the ".500" milestone, the first step in climbing out of the whole that was dug in November. Igor Bobkov, who was relegated to keeping a seat warm in the first part of December, has consistently played a solid game in five consecutive starts. [Ed. Note: Big Bobber is playing due to an injury to Andersen.] The Admirals seem to now have faith in the system head coach Trent Yawney has installed. His system allowed the Ads to force an overtime on Saturday against Albany and quickly come away with a win in the extra period.

-- Which team to cheer for? Depending on who you ask, there are mixed emotions about the Norfolk Admirals playing against the Syracuse Crunch. The parent clubs of both teams, Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning, essentially made an affiliation swap at the conclusion of last season. The players that wore the battleship logo in the 2011-2012, that won the final 28 games of the season and then the Calder Cup, moved with Tampa to Syracuse. They left behind the championship banner and the role of defending that championship to this year's team. The move also left some animosity, as some fans felt they were cheated by the move and the stealing of "their" players.

[Ed. Note: How soon the Duckling-hating Admirals fans seem to forget what the team was like prior to the championship run. Hindsight apparently wears blinders.]

I'd like to take the opportunity to clear a few things up, or at least express some ideas that should help put things in context for these "fair weather" fans. First, hockey did not leave Norfolk. The Norfolk Admirals franchise, excuse me, the DEFENDING CALDER CUP CHAMPION Norfolk Admirals franchise is alive and well for the foreseeable future.

The AHL is currently the best league in North America thanks to the NHL lockout. Anaheim has a decent stable of young talent that found themselves in the playoffs last season after a bad start. AHL teams routinely have massive player turnover from season to season, be it call-ups to the NHL, free agency, or trades. Last season's Admirals roster had just a handful of players return from the previous season, so the argument of "all new players we don't know" isn't exactly valid unless the same argument was made at the beginning of last season. Yes, some personalities that were here for only one year left, but more than likely they would have found a home with Tampa Bay, in much the same way that many of the personalities the Admirals have this year will most likely find themselves with Anaheim if/when the NHL resumes play.

The individual players left with Tampa, but the banner still hangs in Norfolk Scope. The tradition of Admirals hockey is still being carried on by this year's team. There are familiar players on the roster that have worn the Admirals' colors before. The coaches aren't new, the uniforms aren't new, the hockey experience isn't new. The roster for the 2012-2013 Norfolk Admirals have the honor and the privilege of defending the AHL's ultimate prize, and until the season is over get to carry that distinction. Last season will never be duplicated, but that shouldn't take away from celebrating this season.

Follow me on Twitter: @VAPuckhead

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